Splendid Sampler II: Potted Paisleys

I have to say I was pretty flabbergasted when Pat asked me to contribute a block design for her Splendid Sampler II book. While I'm no stranger to making my own designs, especially since I like to do my own thing, making small 6 inch finished blocks is certainly not what I typically do.

Pat popped in for a brief visit at my shop.

Truthfully, I'm all about the quilting! Piecing, applique and embroidery (mostly machine embroidery these days as I am a Janome dealer) are just the thing I do to give myself a canvas to stitch out my heart. I am more likely to design a large block, set it on point with a bunch of negative space around it and quilt away!

I took it on as a skill builder, a challenge for myself to step outside of my comfort zone and take bite sized nibbles of techniques that I don't usually do. I think we all need to do that from time to time.

I'm getting ahead of myself! These Splendid Sampler designer posts get visited by all kinds of new folks, so an introduction is in order.

My name is Amy K. Johnson and I'm a quilter, teacher, shop owner, Janome dealer, blogger, mother and more. Not necessarily listed in order of importance, of course. You can find me at Sew Simple of Lynchburg in Virginia and online at AmyQuilts.com, where I sell my favorite rulers for ruler work, tools, fabric, and more. You can even see me over at Bluprint, aka Craftsy, where I teach Quilting with Rulers. Lately, I've been having the most quilting fun on my Facebook page AmyQuilts where I've been doing live quilting videos twice a week. We're currently doing a fun free motion quilt along using a panel and added borders to play with free motion and a few basic ruler work designs.

Quilting with rulers, also called free motion ruler work, on a stationary sewing machine is something I've been doing for quite a long time. In fact, that's how I first met Pat. She had heard the buzz about using rulers to quilt on a sewing machine and contacted me to be interviewed on her radio show on the April 4, 2016 episode and again this past September. She's an amazing interviewer. Like having a chat with a friend.

Fun fact: I'm a Janome dealer and my husband is my sewing machine tech. We joke that between us we know the guts and glory of sewing. He literally knows the guts of sewing machines and I get to use them to make all kinds of gloriously fun projects.

So what's a gal like me to do when challenged to design for such a specific project as the Splendid Sampler? Well, I took my favorite quilting design and turned it into an applique block.

 That's how Potted Paisleys came to be. A sweet block with a boho vibe featuring fusible applique. I love traditional applique with a modern twist and adore ones that look like a vase of flowers. So I turned some paisleys into a potted paisley plant.

Just like any other quilter doing the Splendid Sampler projects, I started with a fabric pull. AS a shop owner, I could have been matchy-matchy, but instead I went for a kind of controlled scrappy look. I pulled across several lines by Moda and put fat quarters of several colors from each line into my project box, plus a few Grunge and white on whites. This is where I pull all the fabrics for my blocks going forward.

I think it works, don't you? I don't have a bunch of blocks to show you, but I'm trying to do a few each month.

I used my new Cutterpillar light box to trace my shapes and to flip the diagram for my placement. Tip: When using one of these fabulous light "boxes" and your pattern has printing on both sides, use a less intense light selection. Mine has 3 choices. This will let you see the lines on the top facing side far better than the back. The brightest light will make them show equally.

Building up my applique...

 Final placement on my background....

Ta Da!

Looks a bit like one of my paisley play pieces, don't you think?

Since I'm really all about the quilting, I'll be doing a live Facebook video at 1pm Eastern US time with a tutorial on free motion quilting a paisley design at my Facebook page, AmyQuilts. I'll post the recording there so you can watch when the time suits you. Don't do Facebook? Check out my YouTube channel. The video will eventually be added to it, plus there are quite a few videos on free motion and ruler work.

Don't forget to enter the activities (giveaways?) over on the Splendid Sampler page, and check out the other 3 designer's blocks for this week.

If you're looking for a great companion block to mine, I nominate Flower Child by Carolee McMullin on page 102. A match made in hippie heaven.

Sew Simple Studio for AmyQuilts.com

I have been remiss in blogging about my newest challenge and project. I've talked about it in Facebook, but haven't actually posted here. For Christmas, I gave myself a building!

OK, so I actually signed a lease for the building, a 1920's storefront in my local town of Altavista, Virginia.

Why? First of all, we're not moving or closing our shop, Sew Simple of Lynchburg. Rather this is a way to make our shop better. We are getting crowded in our current location and I kept driving around Lynchburg looking for possible places to move the shop. But there really wasn't anything that was a reasonable step larger. Just places that were huge, expensive, or not in a good location.

Add to that, we still have a few years on our current lease and it is in a great location. I had spent a fabulous weekend in early December with Carol Britt from Batiks Etc. & Sew What Fabrics in Wytheville, VA where we talked about our visions for our businesses. I had shared with her my trouble seeing us get bigger, as well as my frustrations of not having time to make the projects I wanted, recording my videos, and topped off with late hours at the store trying to do that, I was missing having time with my kids.

On my 2 hour drive home from Wytheville, I had plenty of time to think. I began to think of what our shop did, what our customers wanted, and whether there was anything that could be taken out of the store to give us more room for the necessary activities and products. Suddenly, it hit me, I didn't need to be there!

That's sounds a bit drastic, I know, but as I thought about it, my video equipment and my sewing machine set up could be removed from the shop and would give the shop's classroom some much needed space. Additionally, I could do much of the shop's admin in a different location which would allow us to use some of the office space at the shop for processing inventory when it comes in. This is an activity that often was being done in the classroom. As a result, we often had to clean up the classroom to have a class and also, get my stuff back out in order for me to make samples and videos.

I love my set up, but it takes up a lot of space in the store's classroom.

But I already knew working from home wasn't going to work. I have already been doing much of my computer work from home and it just wasn't working well. There certainly wasn't room in our house for the sewing and quilting studio, plus the video equipment. So what's a girl to do?

While space in Lynchburg was hideously expensive, the small town we live in (or officially, across the river from) had several vacant storefronts, like many small towns these days. I set a budget and decided that if I could find a space that fit it, I'd set up a studio space. This choice has been a real challenge! It means stepping up and making sure I am using this space to generate it's own income via video classes, pattern design, writing that book on ruler work that I really need to do, and more.

Isn't it funny that even when you feel like you just can't do one more thing, life has a way of making sure we step up, take it on, and move forward?

Removing a partial wall that had been added in the past.

My new studio has three main areas, my quilting and video area, an open space twice as big as the shop's classroom, perfect for hosting classes and workshops, and a private back area for my office and space for my kids to hang out.

Speaking of the kids.... the studio is walking distance from school for the older two, as well as the library, 2 parks, and the Y. It's a mere one mile from our house, though with the hills, river, and road between the two, not great for walking or biking from home. Since the studio will not be open to the public other than for special events and classes, they can spread out through the space. Leah is looking forward to more sewing time with me and my geeky oldest is looking forward to inviting his friends over after school to game together sometimes. Leah has asked for crafty classes for her and her friends too.

The community is also asking for classes. Some are quilters, but there is also interest in just having something fun and creative to do in a small town. I'm certain we can provide that eventually.

The building had been home to a series of hair salons since the 40's. The last one had an interesting mix of Art Deco meets Industrial design.

In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do. Nearly 100 years old, this building has a lot of character and what has been referred to as "layers."  Some of the layers are good, others, like the remnants of a past dropped ceiling and the cheap paneling put over the original bead board is not so great. My budget is small, so the work and outfitting the space with what it needs will happen gradually, especially as I still have my duties at the shop to attend to.

The painting begins. Not sure what colors we will paint the walls, but we're starting with primer.
While I will be separating my duties across two places, it will allow me to be more focused, efficient, and present in each space. That's a good thing.